Electrifying the Barossa

barossa history

Electrifying the Barossa

words by
luke rothe
>> The Claude Rasmus Service Station, Angaston, early 1960s

The early 1900s witnessed the introduction of electricity to the Barossa. As the century progressed, new business opportunities began to flourish.

Initially, electricity was generated independently by some business and property owners, but by the mid-1920s, most major towns had their power supplied by the Adelaide Electric Supply Company.

Electric lighting and power installations gradually made their way into local homes and businesses, although some areas experienced delays. Truro, for example, only connected to mains power in 1951.

Basic electrical goods were initially sold by existing hardware merchants and general stores. However, the increasing popularity of electrical appliances led to the establishment of new businesses.

A receipt dated 1936 advertises A. G. Zerna, Electrician of Nuriootpa as an agent for ‘Irons, Fans, Radiators, etc.’

However, this new industry came with hazards. Mr Zerna made the local newspaper in 1938 with the headline  ‘Thrown from top of 12-foot ladder by Electrical Shock.’ He was found injured and unconscious at the bottom of the ladder but made a full recovery.

A small electrical shop was opened by Eric Rothe in 1947 at Heuzenroeder’s old chemist shop in Tanunda, advertising as a ‘radio and electrical specialist’.

The business thrived, and in 1953, Eric purchased 37-39 Murray Street in Tanunda, adding a new shop front and service facilities. In the late 1960s, the business was sold and became Tanunda Radio Electrical. In 1977, at the same address, Eric’s son, John Rothe, opened Rothe Electronics.

>> Truro button badge 1951
>> D Potts Nuriootpa store advert c.1955
>> Claude Rasmus newsprint advert 1969.

Around 1953, Mr J.D. Potts opened his ‘Radio & Electrical Store’ in Nuriootpa, selling radios, record players, refrigerators, washing machines, Hoover ‘suction cleaners’ and floor polishers.

A significant transformation occurred in the electrical appliance industry with the introduction of television to South Australia in 1959.

John Potts was advertising this exciting new technology at his Nuriootpa store, with operating television sets for the public to view. ‘See and hear TV at Potts’ Radio Store’ was an enticing offer, with ‘Plenty of comfortable chairs available’. Potts’ store was even reported open until 10:30pm for public television viewing and purchases.

In 1956, Claude Rasmus and his wife Vera opened an electrical business on the corner of Stockwell Road and Angaston-Nuriootpa Road, incorporating a Golden Fleece Service Station (now Barossa Roadhouse).

The business prospered and expanded, establishing outlets at Angaston, Tanunda, and Nuriootpa. In 1964, the company joined the Retravision electrical retailer group. Claude Rasmus Pty Ltd not only offered retail services but also provided repairs of refrigeration, washing machines and televisions.

The business employed up to 27 locals, with Brian Scheer managing the TV & Radio Service Department and Murray Woidt overseeing the Contracting Department. Both men joined the company soon after its inception and eventually went on to establish their own electrical businesses.

In 1969, a newspaper lift-out promoted the opening of a new Claude Rasmus shop in Nuriootpa. The opening specials included many iconic Australian brands that no longer exist, while the concept of offering a reduced retail price with a ‘trade-in’ option applied to many of the appliances.

Reflecting on the Barossa’s century-long electrical journey, the pioneering spirit of our early electricians paved the way toward today’s astounding innovations.

>> The Claude Rasmus Nuriootpa store opened in 1969, showing a fleet of service vehicles

Luke Rothe

Local Barossa historian and enthusiast
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